Rabbits are an easy, prolific animal to raise on the small farm, homestead or hobby farm. Typically raised for meat, they can also be raised for wool (Angora) or pelts (Rex).
There are some basics you'll need to master before you bring home your first breeding trio: what to feed them, how to care for them, how to house them, and how to process them humanely and efficiently. Winter is a great time to read up on new species you may add come spring!
Soon, the days will be above freezing and the nights below, and it will be time to tap the maple trees and gather their prolific sap, boiling it down into delicious maple syrup. Whether you're using lines or buckets, it is a good time to gather the supplies you'll need for sugaring. If you don't have your own trees, consider asking a neighbor if they mind if you tap their trees. In exchange for some homemade maple syrup, they might be very obliging.
Deep in the heart of winter is a wonderful time to snuggle up by the fire with a sketchbook or paper and pencil and start thinking, planning and dreaming about the next season on the small farm. Keep those ideas flowing, and start with brainstorming without worrying about reality. Then, narrow down your ideas to what's really feasible for the coming season, prioritizing other goals for future seasons.
If you're new to small farming, homesteading or hobby farming, you may be considering getting animals for the first time, or adding animals to your existing small farm operation. But which animals are a good choice for beginners? How about an easy-to-raise species to add, so that you don't overtax yourself?
Check out the profiles (and more in-depth info if you want it) on these five species of animals, all of which rank among the easiest to raise for the small beginning farmer.
Jerusalem artichokes, or sunchokes as they are also known, are a versatile, easy-to-grow vegetable for the small farmer. Just be careful where you put them, as they may take over your garden with their prolific nature.
Jerusalem artichokes have beautiful, sunflower-like flowers that smell like chocolate. The edible part is the tuber, the root that grows underground: a root that tastes something like a cross between a potato, an artichoke and a water chestnut.
If you think you might want to add another edible vegetable to your small farm this year, consider the Jerusalem artichoke.
Better late than never, right? If you haven't made any specific New Year's Resolutions for your small farm, or aren't the resolutions type, you might consider making goals for the upcoming season. The top ten resolutions I share here are not specific goals, but attitudes and practices that will enhance your small farming experience no matter where in the process you may be - beginner, intermediate, expert - or where on the small farm continuum you are - homesteader, hobby farmer, or larger, yet still small-scale, farmer.
Pairing resolutions with goals can be particularly powerful, so check out both articles and see what goals and resolutions you'll carry forth into 2014.
Winter is the perfect time to consider adding new species of animals to your small farm, homestead or hobby farm. And pigs are a fantastic animal for small farms. They can gobble up food scraps and extra milk (for example, if you have goats, prolific milk-producers), they can act as roto-tillers to churn up dirt in a space slated for vegetable growth, and they can clear brush and pasture in a jiffy.
That said, there are some considerations to think about before you start raising pigs, and you should have their housing, fencing and feeding prepared before you come home with cute, tiny piglets. And of course, most pigs are raised for meat, so you'll want to know what you're in for before you decide to slaughter on-farm or transport them to a slaughterhouse.
- How to Raise Pigs on the Small Farm
- Should You Raise Pigs?
- How to Choose Pig Breeds
- How to Raise Piglets
- Feeding and Watering Pigs
- Housing and Fencing Pigs
- Preventing Pig Problems and Diseases
- Processing Pigs on the Small Farm
"Value-added" is kind of a strange small farming term, and can be confusing and clinical-sounding at first glance. All it really means? That rather than selling the raw products of your farm, you take those products and make them into something with added value - something that you can charge more for. For example, selling fresh raw milk is great, and can be part of your business plan. But what if you made that milk into artisanal cheese? Now instead of selling it at milk prices, you're selling it at high-end cheese prices. Now, you need to do the math: certainly you also put effort, time, equipment and expertise in to making a value-added product like cheese. But often, small farmers find that it is more than worth it to produce and market value-added products, either instead of or in addition to their other farm products.
Learn about how to get started with a value-added farm business, some tips for your business as you get underway, and also get some great ideas for what to produce, as the options are many.
Winter's settling over us. Here in Vermont we already have snow. Wherever you live, I'm sure you're winding down from fall activities, and finding yourself with a little bit more time on your hands now that the main season is through.
It's the perfect time to read more! Learn about the things you want to tackle next season. Explore a new approach, technique or species. I've recently reviewed some great small farming books so take a look and see if one strikes your fancy.
It's nearly Thanksgiving, and although it's of course too late to start raising turkeys for this year, many small farmers are getting ready to process their turkeys for this season, perhaps selling them directly to consumers, or through farmers markets or CSAs.
If you already have turkeys and are getting ready for slaughter, check out the information I've compiled that will help you through that process efficiently and humanely. If you are interested in learning more about raising turkeys for next season, read up - it's the perfect time to make plans for next year.